Photo by Tom Haydu

Hafez

translated from the Persian by Roger Sedarat

Ghazal 4



Speak softly, breeze, to the beautiful deer

Who rustles nature, so we can all hear.


Since he ignores artificial sweetness,

Pray for the life of the sugar-seller.


O rose, are you so blinded by beauty

To close yourself from the nightingale’s fear?


Surface beauty captures shallow people.

The wise bird flees (impossible to snare).


In a monotonous world, mysteries,

Like dark eyes and the pale moon, change color.


When you sit and drink with the beloved,

Distant friends speak. Be mindful and you’ll hear.


If Hafez wrote on the sky, would the lover’s song

Spin the beloved toward the stellar?



Ghazal 7



Look Sufi! This cup of wine’s the mirror.

Its reflecting redness refines the mirror.


Unlike the disciple who’d raise the veil,

The drunk blurs or even blinds the mirror.


He’s no one’s prey. Net holes, held with fingers,

Reflect his escape in wind (the mirror).


Enjoy a few drinks and go. Desire breaks

The eternal banquet (time’s the mirror).


Youth’s left your heart before you plucked a rose.

Don’t let your grey head define the mirror.


The garden’s dried up. Leave it like Adam

And work towards seeing behind the mirror.


Show mercy to the servants at your door,

So that in your gaze we find the mirror.


Hafez inherits Jamshid’s cup. Go breeze, carry

His breath to the one who shines the mirror.



Ghazal 9



Spring in the garden. You grow young again.

The bulbul’s song of the rose sung again.


Dear breeze, through the cypress, rose, and basil

Tell kids in the meadow spring’s sprung again.


I’ll dust the tavern with my eyelashes

If wine’s colored by the young magian.


Don’t hit my head with the polo mallet

When over the perfumed moon it’s swung again.


Those mocking drinkers of the dregs of wine

Will find their faith drained to the dregs again.


Befriend God’s chosen. Noah, in his ark,

Considered the endless deluge a gain.


Ask the sleeper under handfuls of earth

If he’s heard the tower bells rung again.


Oh Cannan moon, you shine on Egypt’s throne,

“Goodbye to prison” on your tongue again.


Indulge in excess, Hafez, drink your wine.

But guard the Karun River. Don’t let sludge in.




Hafez, one of the classical masters of Persian poetry, was born in Shiraz, Iran, in the early 14th century. His ghazals excel both in musicality as well as in intricate wordplay. Because of both its incredible style as well as its deft philosophical treatment of such themes as death, love, and divine worship, his verse has had a lasting and pervasive influence on Persian language and culture.  


Roger Sedarat is the author of two poetry collections, Dear Regime: Letters to the Islamic Republic (Ohio UP, 2007) and Ghazal Games (Ohio UP, 2011). His translations of classical and modern Persian poetry have appeared in World Literature Today, Drunken Boat, and Arroyo. He teaches poetry and literary translation in the MFA Program at Queens College, City
University of New York.



On Libations:

“For Iranian sufi poets in the classical tradition, wine typically serves as a metaphor for the experience of the divine (a rather problematic trope for Muslim contexts). As an Iranian-American poet and Persian translator, I follow Emerson's predilection for the mystic wine.” 

(Roger Sedarat)